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Wales Golf celebrate two new posts in aim to drive diversity in the game

08 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Brandie and Zoe

Two new appointments have been made at Wales golf to help drive a change in equality and diversity at board level and out in the community

Brandie Deignan, a Chief Executive in NHS Primary Care is joining as a Non Executive Director (NED) with a specific remit on equality, diversity and inclusion, while Zoe Davies is the new Community Co-ordinator and ED&I Project Lead.

Deignan’s appointment represents an exciting new development for Wales Golf, moving forward the work that has already been done to start bringing the sport in line with societal changes.

“Problem” with golf

“I am excited about Wales Golf. I have had a ‘problem’ with golf for a long time. My twin boys have been playing since they were six – they are sixteen now,” she explained.

“I have spent a lot of time in golf clubs and, lovely as they are, I have always had a ‘problem’ around how most visible forms of diversity are non-existent. My biggest provocation at the moment is socio-economic and race diversity.

“I am honoured to be given a seat around the table to work together on this and many other focuses.

“It is refreshing to be aligned to an organisation that wants a good focus on EDI. For me this means Wales Golf wants to be progressive, because you have got to identify a challenge first.”

Deignan has held senior leadership roles in four different sectors; hospitality, retail, aviation and recently healthcare, including Managing Director at Marco Pierre White Restaurants and business transformation at British Airways.

She intends to deploy her ability to influence and create a compelling picture to help make an impact.

“I am bringing a very different dimension to this, I have plenty of experience from my day jobs” she said.

“From my perspective, having a non-playing NED is quite cool phenomenon because I am not clouded by the love of the game, nor have emotional affinity to it. My lens is extremely clear to critique the sport from a factual perspective.

“My goal is what we can do to make the game fair for all, to ensure everyone’s uniqueness is embraced, everyone feels included and that Wales Golf is representative of the world we live in.

‘Struggle’

“For me it always starts with conversations and then perhaps those conversations move to identifying something else, and maybe that becomes an action that one decides to implement to change the status quo. EDI doesn’t just embed; it needs to start somewhere.”

On race, ethnicity and inclusion, Deignan was quite clear on her opinions, adding, “You will struggle to find many people who look like me at a golf club, I want us to reflect and ask why so?

“Please don’t tell me it’s because people who look like me do not enjoy golf?  We need to peel back and identify the root cause. You cannot be a part of what you cannot see, after all.

“Not that long ago you could not walk into a golf club dressed in a certain way and unless you fitted in you just would not do it – you would perhaps choose another sport with open access, right? I would!

“I think we need to explore this phenomenon as I still find some golf clubs too exclusive. We all want the next generation to feel they can belong.

“Wales Golf is already great in this space, so it is a case of looking at what else we can do.

“Nobody wants to be preached at, so what I want to do is understand the challenges and then agree what we can do together.

“It is also about trying to do something, because what is the alternative? The alternative is other sports will have these conversations and we will fall behind, which is not where we want to be.”

Deignan is clear of her boundaries as a non-executive board member, and vibrantly engaging about exploring the matter.

‘‘I am a non-executive board member. My role is to support and be a critical friend, and help drive those conversations,” she said.

One of the key people working within the community will be 22-year-old Davies, a former gymnast with BSc and MSc degrees in Sports and Exercise Science from Swansea University.

Sports development

“I was a competitive gymnast for 12 years or so, which is what got me into sport in the first place I suppose,” she said.

“Sports development always interested me a lot because I knew that me joining a single sport literally shaped my whole life, everything has been based on me starting sport as a child.

“I know getting a kid into sport might shape their whole life as it has for me. My Dad was a golfer, loves it, thinks it is an amazing sport.

“Anyone can get involved and anyone can get to a good level wherever they are, so it is really important to get people of all backgrounds, whether that is people of different cultures, people of deprived backgrounds, men, women, juniors, whoever.

“The two elements of my role tie in perfectly, everything we are trying to aim for in the community involves people from different backgrounds, so the EDI role has a big overlap.

“I am working on community projects, but we can target women and girls and diversity through that.”

Target groups

Davies is also looking forward to the opportunity to take up golf, saying, “I have a few opportunities where I can pick up a club and have a go, so I am enjoying that and looking forward to doing New2Golf next summer.

“One of our big target groups is girls my age, so we are testing the waters, seeing what it is like for people coming into golf clubs, seeing what works and what we can improve on if anything.”

The two new appointments in the boardroom and working with the clubs should see Wales Golf lead a big change in equality, diversity and inclusion within golf over the next few years.


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